8 Apr 2020

Covid-19: Iwi fear online alcohol sales will spike family harm

8:50 am on 8 April 2020

Whanganui iwi are calling for a ban on the online sale of alcohol during lockdown out of fears it will cause a spike in family violence.

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The Te Ranga Tupua Iwi Collective wants the government to ban the online sale and delivery of alcohol during lockdown. Photo: AFP

The demand for alcohol online is so high that customers are having to wait five days before their order is dispatched.

More liquor stores will begin to sell and deliver alcohol online after the government implemented new rules last Friday.

But Ken Mair, who is part of Te Ranga Tupua Iwi Collective, said it is a bad move for Māori communities.

"We are aware of families, whānau having parties and being able to access large amounts of alcohol online," he said.

"Everyone knows that alcohol is a significant factor in family violence and it is an issue that affects whānau within Māoridom."

Mair said many families are under stress at the moment, having lost employment and facing uncertain futures.

He is calling for the government to ban the online sale and delivery of alcohol during lockdown to prevent harm.

"At a time where the nation is in a state of emergency and under government instruction to isolate at home.

"It is absolutely unacceptable from our point of view to allow the delivery of alcohol to homes that are already under stress."

The iwi collective includes Whanganui, Ngā Wairiki Ngāti Apa, Ruapehu - Waimarino, Mōkai Pātea/Otaihape and Ngā Rauru.

  • If you have symptoms of the coronavirus, call the NZ Covid-19 Healthline on 0800 358 5453 (+64 9 358 5453 for international SIMs) or call your GP - don't show up at a medical centre

The Māori Women's Welfare League wants the sale of alcohol to be totally prohibited during lockdown.

The league president, Prue Kapua, said the call should extend to ban supermarkets from selling wine and beer too.

She said the government should be doing everything it can to minimise family harm during isolation.

"We perhaps should be looking at it across the board if we are as a society going to be mindful of the wellbeing of everybody."

Kapua said the situation is not helped by a reduction in available social services for victims of family harm at the moment and a lack of other accommodation options for women and children.

Expected rise in family harm

Experts are worried about a rise in family harm under alert level 4, which has been seen in other countries in isolation.

Last week, police said they had seen an increase in family violence in Counties Manukau.

AUT University Māori Health professor Denise Wilson said Māori women are at higher risk of family harm.

She is backing calls to stop online alcohol sales.

"Being able to order alcohol when you want increases the likelihood of family harm occurring," she said.

"We know that while alcohol does not necessarily cause family harm, it certainly exacerbates it."

Wilson said research shows women will manage their safety and that of their children when alcohol is causing risk at home.

But that that is made more difficult when people are expected to stay in their bubble.

The Women's Refuge did a survey on Thursday which showed that 60 percent of its refuges had been busier than normal.

Chief executive Ang Jury said alcohol does not cause family harm but having it delivered to homes has the potential to be a problem.

She would not go as far as to support a ban, but she questioned why online sales are allowed.

"To my mind, hard liquor is not an essential," Dr Jury said.

"So it has been a little surprising to me that the online sales were allowed to continue. I certainly would not be against the notion."

No plans for change

In line with duty free purchases, people cannot get more than three bottles of spirits per order.

The Alcohol Beverages Council said online sales keep people at home and reduce the spread of Covid-19.

Executive director Bridget MacDonald said family harm cannot be put down to online alcohol sales alone.

"Every New Zealander right now will be concerned about the pressure people are under during the lockdown situation," she said.

"Domestic violence is never acceptable and it can be caused though by a number of factors.

"Drawing an illusionary line between domestic violence and alcohol is quite simplistic."

MacDonald expected more stores will open online after the government changes last Friday but she said alcohol sales remain down on last year.

Health Minister David Clark declined to be interviewed.

But he said the current policy reflects a cross government position and there are no plans to change it.

Where to get help:

Women's Refuge: (0800 733 843)

It's Not OK (0800 456 450)

Shine: 0508 744 633

Victim Support: 0800 650 654

HELP Call 24/7 (Auckland): 09 623 1700, (Wellington): be 04 801 6655 - 0

The National Network of Stopping Violence Services has information on specialist family violence agencies.

If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.